Monday, April 15, 2013

My City

My city was hurt today.

Photo not mine, taken from the recesses of Facebook

I haven't lived in Boston in years, and I suppose Townies would say that I never truly "lived in" Boston at all, but for five years in the '80s and '90s, yes, Boston was my home.

I remember my Dad's love for the city when I was a kid (he went to school there for a time), his familiarity with it ("Nobody stops at that stop sign." "Dad, is he pulling us over?" "Shit."), and our visits there.

I remember orientation week and the following five years at NU, where I met so many people I consider friends and family.

I remember learning the city as one roaming pack of Freshmen, the Christian Science Center at night, midnight trips to Tower Records, pizza at Boston House ("Ten Minutes!"), catching shows on Landsdowne Street, hanging out at Maxwell Jumps and Copperfield's, eating 2am pizza at Little Stevie's next to the guys in drag, dodging the dog poop on Gainsborough Street, and hearing the mockingbird that had taken up the "car alarm serenade" as its call.

I remember hanging out near the finish line a handful of times, much like many of the people there today. Seeing not only the elite runners and local favorites like the Hoyts, but the back-of-the-packers... the folks in Elvis outfits, the jugglers, and the one who stopped before the finish line to grab his toddler and carry him across the line with him. I remember people with periscopes so they could see the finishers over the rest of the crowd. It was always mayhem, but it was Boston's day to shine, sharing in a celebration of not only athleticism and history, but a collective pride and joy.

My heart goes out to those families directly impacted by the explosions. To my friend who ran today, thrilled to qualify and run Boston for his first time. To my other friend from work who volunteered on the race route with her running club (both are fine). To all those who stepped in where they were needed without flinching: First Responders, emergency personnel, race volunteers, citizens.

I may no longer be within Boston, but Boston is still within me.
Today, my heart aches for it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tough Love

I thought about it today and realized that not only have I not made a new CD for my Spinning class in ages, but it's been a long time since I posted anything about it. I think it's time to dust it all off and remember why I enjoy doing it so much, and in the process, maybe either give you guys a window into Jen's crazy mind as a Spin instructor or at least give you some fun CD ideas. :-)

Anyway, it being February, I decided to pull out my Valentine's Day "Tough Love" CD. All songs have the word "Love" in the title, if not in the intent. A little something for everyone - the lovebirds and the disenchanted. And a good workout too. Win-win!

The profile starts off getting the heart rate up with some jumps (lifts in and out of the seat) and some speed work, then gets into some SERIOUS speed followed by one hell of a climb. It's a nice endurance ride until about halfway through, and kicks in with the second half.

So, before I post the profile, I should probably give you the "Jen to English" Spinning dictionary:

Flat Road

Seated, low resistance, higher cadence


Higher resistance, simulating the difficulty going uphill. Lower cadence. Seated or standing.


Standing, out of the saddle.


Alternating standing and seated, usually to the beat (4-counts, 8-counts, etc.)


Added speed.


Adding speed AND resistance (simulating the power needed to "Break away" from the pack in a bike race, kinda-sorta)

Now that we got that out of the way, this is what I played today:


Friday, I'm in Love (The Cure)


Warmup (Flat Road)


Somebody to Love (Jefferson Airplane)


Warmup (Lift at Chorus)


Cupid / I've Loved You for a Long Time (The Spinners)


Jumps: 8-counts / 4-counts


Radar Love (Golden Earring)


Speed drills - cumulative surges, bringing it back at the break, then back up again.


The Game of Love (Santana feat. Michelle Branch)


Seated climb with breakaways at chorus. Leave resistance on after each breakaway, bring cadence back to starting pace


Lucky Love (Ace of Base)


Jumps: 8-counts / 4-counts


The Age of Love (Scooter)


FAST cadence (push past aerobic threshold) - recover during break. Repeat for second verse


Feel Like Making Love (Bad Company)


Climb, add resistance each minute, or as desired.


Love Stinks (J. Geils Band)


Continue with climb


Used to Love Her (Guns and Roses)


Cooldown, stretch


I've Been in Love Before (Cutting Crew)


Cooldown, stretch

Like I said, a little something for everyone (and probably a little something for NO one as well ;-). Time to start making some new playlists!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

So… back in November or December, I got poked by a couple folks to go blog again. That it was nice that I found my voice and I should do it more often (really, have they heard me talk? My voice could stand to be lost once in a while. But I digress…). It got me thinking about blogging in general, or any of the social media, really. How at first, I thought it takes a certain amount of ego to believe you have something to say that anyone wants to hear (or read). 

I don't say this in a bad way. Some level of ego or confidence is healthy, and it's good to feel like you've been heard and you have an outlet. But I think my generation is a dying breed in a way, and it's been interesting to see the progression.

We and our siblings are pretty much the last generation to grow up (in our formative years, anyway) without being "connected". If we weren't physically with our friends, there wasn't a lot of socializing going on. Sure, we had telephones, but you had to know who you were calling. And unless you had the "pleasure" of a party line (oh, THOSE were fun), you didn't talk to more than one person at a time. You went out for that (and yes, this Old Lady realizes that you Young Whippersnappers still do just that - some things never change, despite society's cries of woe).

Writing was the same way. You wrote. On PAPER! (GASP!) And you either shared it with friends, stuck it in a journal never to see the light of day again, or, if you were good and lucky, you submitted something to a magazine and got published. Or tried.

Only a few people used public outlets, and those outlets were typically letters in magazines or newspapers, or phone calls to talk radio. If you were particularly brave - or crazy - you took to the streets and became one of THOSE people. If you were particularly driven, you got your OWN talk radio show.

And now, being connected, finding an outlet for your beliefs, your concerns, your talents - it's all at your fingertips.

I graduated from college around the time the web took off. I was working at my first job out of school when NCSA Mosaic came along, and wow - this was cool! And then it exploded BEYOND the techie community. People were getting dialup accounts and checking it out for themselves. Getting email. Getting AIM accounts. And that was AMAZING to watch. The Internet went from a small number of communities (USENET groups, various BBSes, chat servers) to one big one in a handful of years. And the kids who were born around that time, this is what they've known since childhood - a community at their fingertips. The public versus the private? Blurred.

What used to require ego and confidence - the newfangled equivalent of shouting in a crowded gathering or standing up on a soapbox on the sidewalk - just doesn't have that same feel for many anymore. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr… even sites like Reddit and Digg - they're all communities. Virtual neighborhoods. People who've grown up in these streets (or spent a lot of time in them) are quite comfortable here. And it feels like home. There are enclaves, neighborhoods where one is known and comfortable, neighborhoods you've passed through enough and are familiar with, and all sorts of new places to travel to. Boundaries between them? They can be as rigid or as fuzzy as you want them to be.

To someone who sees the Internet as a world full of strangers, yes, it's hard to understand why anyone would share so much online. Or to understand why people feel the need to share so much to nobody in particular.

To someone who sees the Internet as a community, or a neighborhood? It's no different than hanging out with the neighbors, or at a party, and conversing with friends and acquaintances. Personal stories, pontification, silly jokes, favorite songs… every good gathering has some of that. :-) (And yes, every party has the people you wish would shut up, too… no different here, I'm afraid. And I will eventually shut up if you get me one of those chocolate things over there… yeah, that one. Thanks.)

Yes, there are the things to worry about: identity theft… I'm not really talking about that here. Of course, you need to be careful what you leave laying around, just like in real life. No, my point is only that I'm fascinated by the change I see. It's not just "kids" embracing the idea of an online community. Facebook makes it SO easy to stay in touch with old friends and relatives, and I LOVE being able to do that.

Which brings me back around to why I started blogging in the first place (hey, I *am* going somewhere with this!)...

The blog (and others before it) really started out as a way to share "the life of Jen" with my family. I could put some pictures up and point them to it, so they could see the kids grow, or just stay in touch. A closed community. The growth of Facebook made that a moot point, so it turned into more of a journal - travel journal at times, running journal at others. Still a closed community.

And then I had a cancer scare.
And the gates opened - it became a bigger community.
Facebook helped too, but what happened is that I realized I had an audience. An audience of friends. A neighborhood, if you will. A neighborhood who rallied around and helped encourage me to (A) get checked, and (B) got me through a lot of the stress and worry. And I will always appreciate that.

And for those of you who weren't here then, no worries. Benign. :-)

Since then, the blog has gotten a bit deeper. A bit more personal (although I still like keeping certain things close to my chest). Friends have reminded me that I like to write… so I do. Others have encouraged me to KEEP writing here… so I am. At some point, I may even put some of the more artsy-fartsy stuff I've written up here, but I'm not quite ready for that yet, if I ever am (I've got a nice, anonymous Tumblr for that ;-)

I've always loved deep discussions and debates with friends, and while I haven't really done much of that in my blog (yet), I find it fun to turn ideas around and dig into them… to maybe pontificate a bit and see if it leads to a discussion. To question and probe without judgment… maybe the virtual equivalent of having a heated discussion among friends and ending it with, "Well, let's have another beer."

So, okay. I'll blog more. I'll write more. But I'll dig a bit more as well. That's been fun lately, and always good to gain some more self-insight.

And if this blog changes into yet something else? So be it. It'll be fun while it lasts. :-)
Onward and upward!

And thanks for being part of my neighborhood. <3

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I was challenged to write a blog post before Christmas, and I'm cutting it pretty close. Story of a Procrastinator's life, huh? I had this long post half worked out about gifts and giving and suggested some alternatives to feeling like you NEED to find that something-or-other to check off a box, but since it's Christmas Eve, we're pretty much past that point, aren't we? I'll wrap that one up and dust it off next year. :-)

And then a dear friend of mine (who is also the one who threw down the challenge gauntlet) posted a Christmas memory, and after I dug out whatever was stuck in my eye and making me all teary-eyed, I smiled while I remembered a few of my own.

I lost my dad in 1988, Thanksgiving weekend. I barely remember that Christmas, to be honest. It was a blur, and I think I wanted to keep it that way. My aunt let me borrow some pictures to scan, and I have zero recollection of the time spent at my grandparents' house that day. It's nice to have the pictures now.

What I do have are memories of other Christmases. 

My dad had a bit of a prankster in him. This explains a lot, you say. Thanks for the compliment. ;-)

I remember one Christmas where my Mom had a HUGE box under the tree. He and I watched as she started to open it, and lo and behold… a huge box FULL of paper towels. Individually bunched up (hey, this was well before tissue paper was as ubiquitous as it is now - Bounty is what we had!). I remember "the look" and then Mom digging through the box trying to find the wristwatch hiding among the paper towels. It took a while. As a kid, if that wasn't the funniest thing I saw that Christmas, I don't know what was. :-D

And, of course, they were PERFECTLY GOOD paper towels, so we reused them.

And then there was the homemade box.
My Dad had gotten my Mom something smallish (it was so long ago, and the actual present doesn't matter, so I don't remember what it was), and decided that since we didn't have a box of the proper size, we would make one. 

So I helped my dad cut out 6 equal-sized squares of cardboard from a MUCH LARGER BOX (which was then useless, but whatever - we were making our own!), and we taped that sucker together on all sides around Mom's gift. I think we kept the Scotch tape folks in business that year. 

Mom opened the gift and had NO idea what end to open. And we laughed, got a knife, and extracted the present from its tape-and-cardboard womb.

That box was used EVERY SINGLE CHRISTMAS after that, until Mom moved and we lost track of it. There was more tape than cardboard after a while, but I always loved that box.

I remember my Dad teaching me how to wrap gifts, to crease the paper just so, to fold here, tuck that there, and tape, tape, tape! 

I remember adding those individual pieces of tinsel to the tree and then recycling them every year to use over again.

I remember the one and only year we got a real tree… I went with my dad and our neighbor into the woods ("Are we supposed to be here?" "It's fine, just hurry up!") to cut what seemed to be the smallest tree in the area. Unfortunately, the smallest tree does not equate to a SMALL tree, and we saw that once we got it home.
To our apartment.
Where you have to wedge this tree through the front door, up the stairs, and around the corner through OUR door.
After much sputtering by my dad and laughing by me, I was sent upstairs to wait.

By the time the tree made it upstairs, it was much more Charlie-Brownish… and there were a number of needles and pieces of tree left behind in the hallway. But it was in. And it was… TALL. Sick of dealing with the tree, they chopped off the TOP so it would fit. So at least it looked fuller. ;-)

And then it wouldn't stay up. The cat didn't help. So Mom did what Moms do - she got out her yarn from her knitting and tied it to the wall. 

Picture if you will, a roundish, bent-up tree tied to the wall with brown, yellow, and orange variegated yarn, with a cat in it.

Yeah, we had a four-foot fake tree every year thereafter. :-)

Some good memories over coffee this morning, and a nice way to reflect on what we take with us from Christmas. So, in a way, this post IS about gifts. The gifts from my Dad that carry with me today. The moments. The memories. The important stuff.

What are YOUR memories of Christmases past? What are you helping create with your loved ones? What will they take with them once you're gone?

Thanks, Dad. Merry Christmas. I do miss you. <3

Friday, November 25, 2011

Merry Xmas? Happy Holidays!

I'm going to preface this post with an apology - I am the type of person who must have been a grade-school teacher in a past life... I have the propensity to be pedantic and want to correct people. I usually do squash that pretty well, or at least THINK I do, given the fact that people still seem to want to talk with me. :-)

All that aside, as Santa rolls in at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, in comes the holiday season, which I adore: the smell of fir trees and bayberry candles, of fires burning, of cookies baking, and (yes - FINALLY now I can personally accept) the sound of Christmas music (and the occasional rotation in of The Hanukkah Song).

Oh. And the annual rant from folks bitterly protesting the use of "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Xmas".

Apologies to any well-meaning friends or family who've joined the protest, but since you've made your point clear, I figure I can make mine and no harm no foul. Besides, I love a good debate. :-)

Here's where the pedant in me would like to point all the people protesting the use of "Xmas" to the following:

This is not new usage that the "politically correct" have dreamed up. The use of "X" (or the Greek letter chi) to substitute for "Christ" has been around longer than we've had typography to produce it. It is a historically acceptable abbreviation. So when I abbreviate "Christmas" to "Xmas," I am not doing so out of disrespect, nor a desire to remove religion from the holiday. I am not part of any "left-wing conspiracy" nor am I an atheist. Maybe a lazy typist, if I have to admit to being something.

And "Happy Holidays"... Oh boy.

May I ask what's wrong with genuinely wishing someone good will, regardless of how you phrase it? What on Earth possesses someone to see the worst in an expression of good will, and tear down the giver (which I have actually SEEN while out Xmas shopping in past years), rather than accepting it in the spirit in which it's meant?

I certainly can't be the only one who uses "Happy Holidays" to encapsulate Christmas (or Solstice, or Hanukkah, depending on the recipient) AND the New Year, and I WOULD like to wish you a happy time for both holidays without generating offense on the part of the recipient.

And if the well-wisher is unsure of the holidays you celebrate, why is it an offense for them to wish you well generically? It's not up to the retail clerk (who's probably been behind that register WAY too long this season) to determine in less than a second which holiday you celebrate and wish you well accordingly. Is it too much to ask people to accept goodwill in the intent in which it's delivered and celebrate their respective holiday anyway? It is not meant to exclude anyone, rather instead including various other beliefs and celebrations. And since when is inclusion considered bad manners? It's akin to looking at a group of people, male and female, and insisting I call them "gentlemen." 

(Actually, it's more akin to looking at a group of people, some of whom are gender indeterminate, and asking me to call them "gentlemen" rather than "folks" - especially when I sure as heck don't want to offend someone.)

How about we look past the Thanksgiving night lines for the latest sales, look past the newest toys that you HAVE to have, look past the unintended slights and unneeded offense, and take a good long look at what we are all saying this season is about, whatever we believe, and reflect on that?

Happy holidays, folks... whatever you celebrate, or even if you don't. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Solstice, Joyous Yule, Happy New Year, and if I've missed anyone, please let me know. Just be happy. Unwind. Reflect. ENJOY the holidays and don't be consumed by them. May we all start 2012 happier for spending the holidays with loved ones, rather than saying, "Well, I'm glad THAT'S over for another year!"